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A Halloween Monster Feast: Discovering the Food-based Origins of Zombies, Vampires, and Witches

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 10, 2013
Education, Travel, Food, Entertainment, Calendar Editors
Contact: emelia.cowans@naturalsciences.org, 919.707.9837

Zombies and Vampires and Witches, Oh my!

Come learn about food-based monster myths while enjoying monster-themed foods 

RALEIGH — The first vampires were eastern Europeans who didn’t get enough vitamins. Haitians who practice Voodoo used pufferfish poison to turn people into zombies and a fungus in colonial America created witches…at least in the eyes of their accusers. 

Monsters have fascinated us for years, but their food-based origins have been a mystery until now! For Halloween enthusiasts who also love science, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and Rocky Top Hospitality will host a three-course meal that will highlight the evolution of the culinary explanations for scary monsters and how we’ve come to view them over the years. A Halloween Monster Feast: Discovering the Food-based Origins of Zombies, Vampires, and Witches will be held on Wednesday, October 30 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. inside the Daily Planet Café (in the Museum’s Nature Research Center). The cost of the dinner will be $50 with a monster-themed specialty cocktail hour at 6 p.m. Specialty cocktails are not included in the ticket price and range from $9 to $12. Guests are encouraged to come in costume and the best zombie, vampire and witch will receive a $50 gift card from Rocky Top Hospitality!

Vampires are known to be pale and drink blood, right? Well, in Eastern Europe, from the 1700’s through the late 19th century, a common vitamin deficiency, specifically Niacin, caused sensitivity to sunlight and skin discoloration. In parts of Haiti where Voodoo is practiced, tetrodotoxin poisoning was commonly used in Zombification rituals, when victims were placed into a zombie-like trance after being fed human remains, poisoned frogs and pufferfish.  During the Salem witch trials in the late 1600s, it was discovered that a fungus that grows on rye caused LSD-like hallucinations in the witch’s accusers—a condition called Ergot poisoning. 

“There is a very often fascinating scientific explanation for many of these popular and cultural monster myths, and most people don’t realize that these explanations have a real-life basis in nutritional deficiencies and food-related abnormalities,” says Dr. Jason Cryan, Deputy Museum Director for Research & Collections. “The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is excited to offer this dinner series, merging the worlds of science and the culinary arts to educate and entertain our dinner guests. This dinner program is sure to feed your curiosity and quench your thirst for the truth behind real-life monsters!”

The Daily Planet Café will be transformed to create the ultimate ghoulish experience! During the evening, guests can enjoy a presentation on the history of these monster myths from Dr. Roland Kays, Director of the Biodiversity Lab at the NRC, dressed in costume as a “mad” professor, of course, while Dean Ogan, Owner of Rocky Top Hospitality, creates three delectable dishes and a dessert to help bring these myths to life. Courses include Vampire Corn Bisque (red corn bisque garnished with bull's blood), Witch Duck Oysters Rockefeller (with rye and spinach topping with pumpkin hollandaise), and Walking Dead Whipped Sweet Potatoes (Heritage Farms Osso Buco, whipped sweet potatoes, red onion and cucumber relish, and smoked paprika.)

For tickets, pay online at https://www.rockytophospitality.com/about/gift-cards.php. Seating is limited. For more information, contact Emelia Cowans, emelia.cowans@naturalsciences.org, 919.707.9837 or Aimee Bridges, aimee@rockytophospitality.com, 919.829.3771.


The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (11 W. Jones St. and 121 W. Jones St.) in downtown Raleigh, is the state's most visited cultural attraction. It is an active research institution that engages visitors of every age and stage of learning in the wonders of science and the natural world, drawing them into the intriguing fields of study that are critical to the future of North Carolina. Hours: Mon.- Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sun., noon-5 p.m. Admission is free. Visit the Museum on the web at www.naturalsciences.org. Emlyn Koster, PhD, Director; John E. Skvarla III, Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Pat McCrory, Governor.

Publish Date: 
Thursday, October 10, 2013